A Used Car Lot Where the Salespeople Have Not Changed their Ways

by on April 30, 2019 · 8 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Judi Curry

I had one of the worst experiences that I remember having in years today when I went with my student – Hitomi – to  buy a used car.

Let me give you some background:

Hitomi was a student learning English with me for almost three years. She was a flight attendant in Japan and wanted to be able to fly international flights and needed to improve her English.  When she went back to Japan she was not hired in that capacity, and after looking for jobs decided to work as a travel agent.  Surprisingly enough, they sent her to San Diego for her internship for a year and she will be working on Convoy Street in a travel agency.

While she was here before she had rented a car; this time she decided to purchase one instead.  We did a lot of “on-line” looking and finally she narrowed it down to three cars – one of which was an Fiat 500.

When I saw the car I tried everything in my power to dissuade her from this purchase. I felt it was too small for her on the freeway every day; it was ranked as the lowest on CR; and it stated that it had trouble maintaining 65mph.  However, she still wanted one and she and a neighbor that offered to help went to look at the car.  The owner of the agency also told her not to buy it, and she finally agreed with all of us that it was not a good car for her.

My neighbor – Ron – took her to look at other cars in the neighborhood and she really liked a 2014 Ford Focus that she saw on a lot on Midway Drive, across from IHOP.  She – and Ron – talked to the salesman and he said the car was $7,000.  She said that she had only budgeted $5,000 and could not make the purchase.

As they were leaving the lot, the salesman came back to her and told her she could have the car for $6,000, including all licenses, all taxes and a 30 day warranty. She really liked the car but told him she would get back to him in a day.  The one thing she didn’t like was how dirty it was on the interior.  He told her that it would be detailed and be clean if she decided to buy it.

That day came and I took Hitomi to buy the car. The first thing she noticed was that the car was still dirty. The salesman told us that the detail man was sick today and that is why it was not clean. He also told her that if she wanted it it would be clean by tomorrow – Saturday – or Monday at the latest.

The salesman took us into the trailer which is acting as their office, and introduced us to his manager. We were told that the manager would take over from here.

He was pleasant enough even though he seemed very distracted. When he said to Hitomi “and you were quoted $6,000 out the door?” I added, “ . . . and a 30 day warranty.”  He became very flustered and said that they would be losing money if they did that because, after all, the car was listed at $7,000.

I said it didn’t matter; that was what she had been quoted.  He told me that she could have a year warranty for the very reasonable price of $90 a month; I told him she wasn’t making that kind of money and she only wanted the 30 day warranty. He said that with used cars things tend to go wrong and she should be prepared. I told him she didn’t want the yearly guarantee.

Many times during the signing of the papers, he would get up and leave the room to talk to the salesman, or he would call him on the phone.  Hitomi and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes, but kept on with the transaction.

When I said that she was not going to take the car yet because it was dirty, he told me that he would take it over to the car wash next door and have it cleaned. I told him it was supposed to be detailed and she was not going to accept the car going through the car wash.  He said that is what they do with all their cars.  I said that she was told that the car would be detailed.  And it got worse from there.

He called in the salesman who repeated that the detail man called in sick today.  I looked at the manager and I said, “I thought you told me that you don’t have a detail man; that all the cars go through the car wash next door.”  He hemmed and hawed and as he tried to change his lie, the salesman became more and more involved.  One of them was lying to us – and one was not listening to us.

The salesman told Hitomi that she would be able to pick up the car on Saturday about 3:00 and it would be detailed. He said that he would deliver it – he thought she was going to the school across the street – and it would be ready.  But the feeling I got was that they wanted her to take the car today and bring it back. I said that she would not take the car until it was clean.

When the lies were enough, I said to Hitomi that I thought we should leave. I said that I didn’t think she should buy the car from them. The manager said at this point he didn’t care whether she bought it or not.

And then the salesman looked at me and said, “why should she listen to an old lady.”  Bingo! The blood pressure shot up to 300 and I was so pissed I could hardly stand it.  I didn’t feel it was necessary to defend myself regarding my feelings about buying the car from them, but I told Hitomi that she was not being given the truth and we should go.

Then Hitomi threw me a curve. She said that she was starting work on May 1st and really needed a car.  I told her she could rent a car until she found what she wanted, that there are used car lots all around us and she did not have to settle for that car.  I told her that we could go out and look at more cars if she wanted to.

The salesman kept saying that he had been kind and patient, that he had taken the car to another mechanic to have it checked out because I did not offer to do so. It should be pointed out that Hitomi could not drive the car to another mechanic because she did not have insurance. The salesman offered to drive the car to Sunset Cliffs Garage.  He said that he was no longer going to talk to me; just to Hitomi.  At that point I told her it was up to her and I left the office.

When Hitomi came out I was furious.  I had spent a great deal of time helping her get a car; I felt that there was something that was wrong with this car and she was making a mistake in getting it.  The fact that we caught them in a lie made me feel that there were other things they were hiding from us.  However, she told me that she did give them a check – the first she had ever written – and she would be expecting a call when the car is ready.

There was silence on the way home until Hitomi said to me, “do you think that it was really my car that they took to the other mechanic to check it out?  I want to take it to another mechanic to have it looked at.”

I didn’t ask her why she had those feelings and, for the most part ignored her.  I drove her to the mechanic that had checked the car out but they were already closed for the day.  After I calmed down I had her look at the information on the receipt from Sunset Cliff Garage and the information was the same as that on the car.  I do not know what prompted her to make the statement, but I am pretty sure it was something that was said when I was no longer her advisor.

The evening was rather cool, and few words were exchanged between us. However, in the morning, she asked me if I would help her obtain insurance for the car – something that the salesman said he would do but obviously didn’t.  There was no problem doing so, and we had the insurance problem taken care of quickly.

Then she waited for the call to tell her to come and pick up the car. I knew that they were closed on Sunday and it was already 3:40pm.  I suggested that she contact them to make sure the car was ready and when she made contact with them was told she could come and pick it up.  Which she did – via Uber.

She said the car was clean; not as clean as she wished it had been, but it was not as dirty as it was when she looked at it.  She said that they were pleasant when she came in and there was no problem in taking the car from the lot.

This entire episode has left a bad taste in my mouth.

I know that the salesman was lying to us; I know that when Hitomi started to walk out of the lot the salesman enticed her by giving her a “deal.”  I do not know if the manager was “faking it” when he said that he was losing money on the deal but I suspect he was in order to get her to purchase a year warranty.

The salesman’s attitude towards me was rude, insolent, and uncalled for.  I told him that I would make sure that others knew of the unprofessionalism he used in closing this deal. There are too many other used car lots in San Diego to have to put up with the bull s – – – that the salesman and his manager threw at us.

And, most of all, I am greatly disappointed in Hitomi’s reaction to the sale.  After it was all over she had second thoughts.  Even as she sat in the living room with the key in her hand she was talking of taking the car to another mechanic to check it out.  She expressed dismay that a salesman would talk to a customer the way he talked to me, and yet because of the felt urgency she had in needing to have a car by May 1st, she overlooked all of negatives of the sale.

I can only hope that nothing goes wrong with the car; that the year that she is here driving it fulfills the desire that she has imagined in her first American car.  And if any one wants to deal with the used car lot that we dealt with, please don’t ask me to go with you.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara April 30, 2019 at 1:43 pm

I have to ask–what is the point of this story? Disrespect is rampant these days, I have been on the receiving end myself. Will you name this car lot if someone asks you privately? Will Hitomi feel shame if she reads this article?


judi curry April 30, 2019 at 8:04 pm

Hitomi has already read the article. She didn’t feel shame. She knew how I felt; when the manager told her that he didn’t care about the sale and called me an old lady she said she knew she should have walked out with me.

Yes. I will tell anyone that asks – privately – the name of the lot. I told the two men that I was going to write it up, and also put the review on Yelp. No surprise to them.

The point – I think it is pretty obvious. Just because disrespect is rampant doesn’t mean I should sit back and accept it. You might have been on the receiving end – do you also disperse it? There are hundreds of used car dealers in San Diego. One does not have to subject themselves to rudeness and take it. If you still can’t figure out why the article I am sorry. I think I am clear on the purpose.


retired botanist May 1, 2019 at 4:40 am

I agree with Barbara on this one. Buying a used car is probably everyone’s idea of a nightmare, so having some help (as in quiet moral support) is likely welcome. But Hitomi isn’t a student anymore (?) so that profile seems a bit skewed, and the used car salesmen were acting like, well, used car salesmen. At the end of the day, she purchased a car for $1K less than the sticker price, did not have to get the 1-yr warranty, received the car semi-cleaned, will only need to drive it for a year, and had wheels by her Monday deadline.
For someone who often writes under the ‘Old Broad’ moniker, the ‘disrespectful’ outrage seems a tad overblown. Why not use the ‘old lady’ profile to your advantage; instead of being offended by it, try to have it give you leverage instead…a used car salesman wouldn’t want to take advantage of an old lady, now would he? :-)


Debbie May 1, 2019 at 2:27 pm

Hitomi needs to learn that when people do not treat you well or disrespect someone that is in your presence, you get up and walk away. No need to explain just get up and go!

If the car was not clean, she should have asked for $250 refund to get it detailed or better yet, canceled the sale. I hope she will make better decisions in the future and trust your judgement should you be willing to help her in the future.

Let it go


judi curry May 2, 2019 at 10:23 am

I can only hope that the car does not give her any trouble. I’d hate to have to have her deal with them while the warranty is in effect.


Michael May 1, 2019 at 3:14 pm

I’ve bought a lot of cars in my 32 years and work in negotiation. The #1 problem here was needing the car on Monday and having no option.

In the future, it’s smart to show up to the dealer and randomly walk around the lot. You should already know which car you want but make it their idea: I think I would like a hatchback in white.

Carry some wound up paper in your hand and mention you have an appointment with another dealer in an hour.

Then offer $5,000 which they won’t accept and drive away. You’ll get a call in a few hours or the next day with a final offer.

If they can’t wash the car, what good would a crummy warrantee matter anyway.

Several more tricks: get a quote with in house financing after the cash price. You can pay off the loan the next day. Same with a warranty if it has a cancellation period.

If you go to a new car dealership, take a look at the sales board. Pick the loser (i.e. lowest sales) and ask for them.


retired botanist May 1, 2019 at 4:00 pm

Michael- all true! I’ve been there! Car dies on Friday, I needed to drive to work (and get daughter to school) on Monday. Definitely diminishes the options! I ended up choosing, in a few hours, a used Toyota (for about the same price as Hitomi’s, altho it was back in ca. 2002) and not only drove it for the next six yrs, but gave it to my brother who drove it for another six years! Then passed it on to a needy person for the cost of a couple tires, and they’re probably still driving it!


Eric May 4, 2019 at 9:42 am

If it’s a last minute ride you need there is AVIS, Hertz, National, Enterprise, Kayak, Uber and Lyft to name a few. Rent a car for a week or two or three so you can find what you need at the price you need it so you don’t get hosed by a used car salesperson. Your story contains an inordinate number of red flags where you should have bailed immediately. As for buying a Fiat, oh my goodness. Just a couple years ago they were everywhere on the streets, cute, funky, retro. You rarely see them now because they have been scrapped for junk. Consumer reports lists it amongst the least reliable vehicles. I do hope your friend isn’t left with a big loss.


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